Smiling boys
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Exhibition: Smile-ing Boys Project

City Hall, The Queen's Walk, London, SE1 2AA, United Kingdom

This project was created by internationally acclaimed artist Kay Rufai. Funded by the Wellcome Trust & Arts Council England, it is a research led mental well-being project for BAME Boys in London, which was created as a direct response to the rise in youth stabbings in London. 

Between April 2017 and April 2018, London saw a 12% increase in stabbings. This project was created as a way of combatting negative imagery of young Londoners, especially young black men, in light of the disproportionate impact on this group, driven by their experience of stop and search, criminalisation and greater police presence. Kay wanted to raise awareness of the often-neglected public health approach, which required investigating the mental health provisions or lack thereof, for the demographic in question - overwhelmingly black youth. 

This exploration later birthed the S.M.I.L.E-ing Boys Project which you will bear witness to at this exhibition. The project involved research trips to Scandinavia and Bhutan to explore the factors that contribute towards enabling these countries to rank amongst the top 10 happiest countries in the world consistently for the past decade. This ongoing ethnographic research uncovered eight main factors responsible for the high happiness ranking average of the citizens in these Scandinavian countries. These factors were then used to design a series of photography, poetry and discussion-based art workshops with 30 BAME Boys (with the inclusion of one none BAME boy).

The project explores eight main factors which heavily impact the happiness levels of a person, which in turn impacts our ability to engage positively in our relationships with self, others, and wider society at large. A full report available to download here

About the artist 

Kay Adekunle Rufai is a Photographer, Poet, Filmmaker, Mental Health Researcher, Author, Creative facilitator and Immersive artist whose work spans the past 5 years in a handful of countries including the UK, USA, Ethiopia, Bhutan, Germany, Scandinavia, Mexico, Nigeria and Colombia.

He has spent the past 3 years exploring the intersection between culture, identity, racial emancipation and community cohesion through art, photography, educational workshops and public events. A great deal of his work has directly engaged diverse communities, minority, refugee and displaced groups of people as well as collaboratively creating bodies of work with them.

Kay Rufai has been a recipient of funding from various bodies such as the Welcome Trust, Arts Council, British Council, California Arts Council and much more.
His current Projects include: S.M.I.L.E-ing Boys, S.M.I.L.E & BOY AND A BIKE Theatre Production.

Find out more about these projects here.

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